Gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi….
Besides being really fun to say, and sort of mind-boggling to spell, gnocchi are really super fun to make. And, apparently, you can make them with pretty much anything. This winter, after years of being intimidated by the process but drawn to the allure of these puffy little dumplings, I finally decided to tackle them and pulled out my mom’s old fashioned potato mill from the pantry….
I started with what looked most legitimate – the über fussy potato ones from Nancy Silverton’s gorgeous new Mozza Cookbook. Because I am incapable of following a recipe verbatim, (even my own), and because I wanted to try making them using white whole wheat flour instead of white all-purpose, I second-guessed the recipe and added about 1/2 cup less flour than she calls for.
They were incredibly delicious – maybe one of the the most delicious potato things I have ever put in my mouth. But they were also almost too delicate, and could have used more flour in them for a bit more bite…(probably exactly what the recipe called for). Making potato gnocchi is really a project and the Mozza recipes are great – very detailed and wonderfully specific – so rather than trying to re-post my only slightly modified version of that recipe*, I am going to recommend that you get that book, which is loaded with other inspiring veggie recipes, and devote an entire Saturday afternoon to the Potato Gnocchi Gods as I did. It’s wonderfully satisfying.
On the other end of the spectrum – for everyday life – there is ricotta gnocchi, which are so ridiculously quick and non-fussy to make that a dinner for two can be pulled together in about 30 minutes. Probably less. These are really a different creature than the potato ones, even if they look the same. Whipping these off the fork last night with the help of a somewhat ambivalent 12 year old was a whole different dimension from the Saturday mega-project, which was a dedication to art and love. The ricotta dough is definitely less silky and refined, and these gnocchi of course will not give you the Sublime Potato Experience (if you are prone to that sort of thing). Nonetheless, they are possibly even more fun to make because they can be made so easily and spontaneously, and they are unpretentious enough to really be dressed up with any funky old sauce, or none at all. They are amazingly tasty just as they are.
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta, (organic, grass fed if possible)
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (use a microplane)
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/4 t white pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, plus 1/2 cup for shaping
- 3 T. butter, olive oil, or a mix
- 1 T minced fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, or a combo)
- 1 T freshly chopped Italian parsley
In a medium sized bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg salt and pepper. Still to combine thoroughly. Add flour and mix lightly to combine. Dough will be very soft.
Dump out onto well floured board, turn over and fold over very gently a few times just to fully integrate dough. Separate into two balls and, taking turns, shape and flatten each one into a 1 inch thick rectangle. Using a clean knife, cut 1 inch strips from this and gently, on a well floured board, roll each one out into a 1/2 inch thick rope of dough.
Cut the rope into 1 inch “pillows” and, using your thumb on the back of a fork, gently roll each gnocchi off the fork tines, creating ridges on one side and a bit of an indentation on your thumb side. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with the flour. Or, you can just forget the fancy fork thing and do some rustic “loggy” ones or whatever you like. Try some fishes! Just make batches in relatively all the same size so that they will cook at the same time.
Repeat shaping the remaining gnocchi, dropping the finished ones on a floured baking sheet in a single layer. These can be frozen like this, to be bagged up after they freeze or cooked immediately.
To cook, bring a medium sized pan of salted water to a boil. (The rule for fantastic pasta of any kind is to make the water as salty as the ocean, and to use high quality grey, sea, or Himalayan salt to do this with. Trust me, it’s worth it). Cook the gnocchi in 2 – 4 batches at a time, for only about 2 – 3 minutes after they float to the surface. Alternately, you can skip the cooking and try just pan frying them, but I found them a bit lighter if you boil them first.
Drain with a slotted spoon or strainer, adding all the cooked gnocchi to your skillet before tossing quickly and giving a slight reheat in the herb-butter. Finish with a touch of coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and parsley, and top each serving with a bit of grated Parmesan.
*The white whole wheat flour works surprisingly well in gnocchi! Substitute 1:1 for all purpose in the recipes. It’s delicate and just slightly nutty which works great with the butter sauce, and you know…if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.